by Dan Egan Idaho?!! Why Idaho?" That was the response from the friends of Peter and Joanne Renkert when they moved from Connecticut to 60 acres in the outback of Bonner County five years ago. Since then, when some of those friends have come out to visit and see their home in the mountains with sweeping views of the Pend Oreille River and the Hoodoo Valley below, they realize maybe Pete and Joanne hadn't lost their minds after all.
Peter worked for Orvis, the fishing tackle manufacturer. Years ago, he was on a bus in Arizona on a sales-and-fishing trip when he was talking to another guy about where he wanted to retire. "I said I was looking for a place without great gobs of people where we could hunt and fish and ski and snowmobile." The other criterion Peter and Joanne had was to be near saltwater. They had a large sailboat and enjoyed long distance sailing, but they didn't want to live in a big city. "The guy on the bus said, 'Well, there's only one solution to your problem. Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. It's got everything you want, plus it's only five or six hours from Seattle."
Renkert said he never considered North Idaho. "Talk about a geography lesson. All I knew about Idaho was Ernest Hemingway used to come up here. And that there were potatoes in the south and mountains in the north."
When he came up to visit, Renkert was disappointed in Coeur d'Alene. "It was yuppieville," he says. "There was a lot of traffic and people wearing coats and ties. That's what I was trying to get away from." So he took a drive up to Priest Lake and found it beautiful but too remote. On the drive back, he stopped at Sandpoint and saw Lake Pend Oreille. He was sold.
Renkert says that real estate in North Idaho is a steal compared to Connecticut. "It's 60 times more in Connecticut." He says that for the same price he paid for his spread here, which also has a creek and a pond, he could buy one acre of land back in Connecticut. "And that one acre of land," he says "would be a square piece of land with a few maple trees, no view, no water, no nothing."
Want to buy your own little piece of waterfront Eden in Bonner County? Last year, the average price for waterfront property on Lake Pend Oreille was $304,000. If you think that's high, check out Lake Tahoe, where the average selling price for waterfront property was a mere $4.2 million.
What about the sailboat? Renkert says it's still back East. "We got here the first summer and had so much fun, I said, 'No way in heck are we gonna bring that sailboat around.' & quot;